CURATOR > Event: "Hay Fever" Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA

On the evening of May 13, the Oakland Standard hosted Hay Fever, an event about Californians' relationship with the land. The concept for the event, and most of the presenters, hailed from Nevada City, California, an old mining town in the Sierra Nevada foothills that many consider the heart of the contemporary back-to-the-land movement.

Like a growing number of urbanites, and like several generations before them, the back-to-the-landers in Nevada City are interested in crafting an alternative way of life by reclaiming the skills and traditions—pickling, building, sewing—associated with a bygone era.

The event announcement promised, "Learn (almost) everything you need to know to escape civilization." Not quite, but classes covered the construction of simple domes, how to make rope from twigs, and "wildcrafting," which is to forage from nature in a way that sustains local ecologies. Matt Berry demonstrated how to make a small fire in the palm of your hand, Starlight Compost explained how laborious it is to shave the fat off a buffalo's neck before tanning the hide, and Joe Meade raved about the wonders of lacto-fermentation. Other presenters discussed the history of mining in California, the real versus perceived dangers of wild animals, and the biography of John Olmsted, an impassioned California naturalist inspired by John Muir.

The event also included square-dancing lessons amid bales of hay, and a rousing set of music from the eleven-person Ethiopian jazz band Sun Hop Fat. After signing a skull-and-crossbones disclaimer, guests were allowed to sip illicit homebrew concoctions.

Hay Fever was organized in collaboration with students in the Curatorial Practice Program at California College of the Arts, and with support from the FOR-SITE Foundation.

Curators: Rene De Guzman, Adam Lerner, Stijn Schiffeleers, Sasha Archibald, Dane Jensen, Erdan Sun, Cassidy Richadson, Peta Rake, Will Brown, Christine Peterson, Roula Seikaly, Jennifer Kesseler, Ashley Stull, Chelsea Perry, Daniella Murphy, Stephanie Kern, Amanda Mayo, Ola El-Khaldi